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Ethical Recruitment: An Urgent Priority for UK Businesses in the UAE

  • by: Adrian Mansfield
  • On: 5, Oct 2017
4 min read

Whilst for the Americas and Western Europe ethical recruitment processes are common practice, the safety and treatment of migrant workers is becoming an urgent priority for British business leaders in the UAE.

As the UAE government cracks down on unethical recruitment and Modern Slavery climbs further up the global agenda – such that companies found guilty can be prosecuted at “home” as well as in the UAE – UK businesses discovered to be recruiting unethically in the UAE face multimillion pound fines, with business leaders risking prosecution back in the UK in addition to long-term brand damage.

What is Ethical Recruitment?

The World Employment Confederation define ethical recruitment practices as complying with all relevant legislation covering their activities and business, with businesses respecting legislation covering health and safety, non-discrimination, worker’s rights, confidentiality, quality of service and fair competition.

Ethical recruitment involves ensuring that workers are provided with the accurate details of working conditions including pay and working hours, and means businesses must refrain from charging any fees or costs to workers for their services.

Why is Ethical Recruitment Important for UK Businesses in the UAE?

Whilst many companies are aware of and proactively investing into ethical recruitment, businesses and senior leaders new to the UAE or those who are now looking to take advantage of the previously untapped wealth of skills from Asia and Africa may be less familiar with the requirements, benefits, and potential risk factors of ethical recruitment legislation.

In addition to ensuring the best possible care of all workers, which has a proven impact on worker efficiency, quality and retention, businesses with unethical recruitment practices face £multi-million fines and possible prosecution under UK and US anti-slavery and US laws. Even if UK businesses take all precautions with their own processes, if any practices of any part of their supply chain are unethical, UK businesses in the UAE will also face financial penalties and prosecution.

How to Conduct Ethical Recruitment Practices

With strict requirements and even stricter penalties, how can UK businesses and senior management in the UAE can insure their staff, protect themselves and their employees?
‘We have worked with multiple large companies in the UAE who have made their recruitment processes more ethical’, says Adrian Mansfield, Divisional Director at VHR. ‘The necessary actions are quite simple to implement but are not common to companies used to recruiting in the UK or from Western Europe, where ‘bounty’ payments have been outlawed for decades.

‘The first step in creating an ethical recruitment process is to look at your competitors and other UK businesses operating in the UAE and your specific sector, to identify the problems that they have encountered and how they have overcome them. By learning from industry leaders, businesses can operate open and transparent recruitment processes that benefit all workers and the business as a whole.’

Here are Adrian’s Top 10 Tips to work towards Ethical Recruitment:

  • Ask questions, both of your candidates and your recruitment agency – what fees do you charge the candidate?
  • Monitor and review as far down the supply chain as you can to ensure ethical practices are established by all organisations. Use social media and a variety of methods to tap into local markets in your target areas.
  • Review all contracts – contracts given to workers in their home country must match the contracts in the UAE.
  • Ensure that you see all signed offer letters as proof of worker interest and acceptance of all roles.
  • Speak to staff when they first arrive in the country, and again after 2-3 months in the job, to ensure that they have not paid a fee (they may not tell you immediately in arrival).
  • Use a reputable and licenced agency in the country you are sourcing from.
  • Review the Dhaka Principles, a set of human rights-based guidelines on the rights of migrant workers throughout overseas employment and safe return to their home countries, before you begin any recruitment process. There are multiple pieces of legislation on ethical recruitment, including the C181 Private Employment Agencies Convention of 1997, the International Labour Organisation’s ILO4 to provide specific guidance on ethical recruitment practices.
  • Ensure that staff keep their passports. Some agencies take workers’ passports upon interview and hold them as a way of securing payment for a job, however transparency and individual autonomy is paramount for worker’s wellbeing.
  • Visit any staff accommodation that is provided to your staff to ensure it meets your standards.
  • Be prepared to expect the worse and plan for it. A dedicated Ethical Recruitment document that sets out standards of processes and a full action plan upon discovery of unethical recruitment practices will empower your business to resolve issues as effectively and efficiently as possible.
VHR are proud to partner businesses all over the world, providing support and guidance on ethical recruitment practices, contract and permanent sourcing and end-to-end recruitment services.

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